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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Strategic planning process prepares for move into next stage

Throughout the semester, the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) met and gathered information as they develop a framework for Macalester’s vision and institutional direction over the next 10 years. Now the SPC is preparing to move into the next stage of strategic planning.

The administrators, faculty and student members of the SPC began soliciting community feedback through listening sessions and forums last spring in order to generate ideas for the planning process. This semester, the committee divided into five working groups to focus on specific strategic planning categories: financial sustainability, the distinctiveness of Macalester, liberal arts and vocation, faculty governance, and technology.

These groups developed ideas and proposals through the October Board of Trustees meeting and presented them to trustees. At that point, the SPC reconvened and discussed topics, such as diversity and buildings on campus, that they wanted to address in the strategic planning process, but didn’t fall under the purview of any of those working groups.

“We quickly realized that the five areas were sort of tripping over each other,” Acting President Kathy Murray said.
“How could you talk about distinctiveness without talking about the resource implications of trying to do something new?
How could you think about a new approach to academic advising without thinking of faculty governance?”

The five working groups met again and submitted initial reports to Murray two weeks ago, which she has been reviewing since.

According to Murray, any ideas or proposals will not be publicized until a consensus is reached because the SPC is still in an information-gathering phase. At that point, they will begin to seek feedback from the school community. President Brian Rosenberg will return from his sabbatical at the beginning of January, and immediately fill Murray’s role and continue overseeing the strategic planning process.

Murray is considering drafting an overall report on the strategic planning process to inform Rosenberg on the SPC’s work to this point in the semester.

Unless the SPC and Rosenberg decide that more work needs to be done in committee, the SPC will start publishing proposals and soliciting feedback from the community some time in the spring. More town halls and forums will be held when specific proposals are unveiled.

“We have had a lot of conversations both last spring and again this semester, but we know people need a chance to see the whole package and how it works together to build a buy-in from faculty, staff, and students,” Murray said.

According to Murray, an ambitious timeline would involve bringing a full draft to the Board of Trustees during their March meeting, for approval at their May meeting. That would mean the strategic planning process would have lasted 18 months, which Murray said is an “aggressive” timeline. Many colleges’ strategic planning phases last for two to three years. Murray said there is no rush to make the SPC finish their work inside that 18-month time frame.

“We are committed to having a good product before we have a speedy product,” Murray said.

Macalester’s last phase of strategic planning was completed in 2005, when Rosenberg published a document titled “World Class.” That document, which listed strategic imperatives for the school, was designed to last until 2015.

This phase of strategic planning is designed to go into effect as World Class ends. After finishing the school’s capital campaign, Step Forward, the administration decided to run strategic planning throughout this academic year.

Although the SPC proposals have not been made public yet, Murray is excited about the direction that the committee has been taking.

“Brian [Rosenberg] encouraged us from the very start to be bold and courageous,” Murray said. “And I think there are some bold ideas; there are some very innovative, interesting ideas. I’m going to hope that a few more emerge as we refine our thinking. It’s been a great planning group to work with. I think the process is serving us well, and I’ll be fascinated to see how it works next semester.”

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